Friday, August 8, 2014

Family Structure and Freedom

You know me. I keep harping about what ought to be an obvious fact but which seems to elude all too many libertarians: a free, or libertarian society has prerequisites. The people in it (or allowed in it) have to be pro-freedom themselves, and also committed to a lifestyle that enables freedom. That's why, when libertarians gush about people exercising their freedom by becoming drug addicts or being sexually promiscuous or exhibiting some other kind of self-destructive behavior that tends to make them dependent on society, they're being short-sighted and self-destructive themselves. This, I believe is due to libertarians' understandable bias toward freedom, taken to ridiculous extremes, and to the contamination of libertarianism by the liberal "tolerance" dogma that seems to permeate everything these days.

What Keir says below is true, and what it all implies, beyond what he says, is that the West, if it is to remain as free as it is or, we can hope, become freer, must not accept immigrants with customs, including family structures, that make freedom less likely. Keir quotes Steve Sailer in this, and Steve is very good on the subject. One point that should be emphasized is that the West, seemingly all the way back to Classical Rome at least, was not characterized by extended families (which I think corresponds to "communitarian," below), but by the nuclear families mixed with a bit of patriarchy, much like what is recommended below. Non-extended families tend to minimize nepotism and "clannishness," which are rife in the Third World, and make civic virtues a possibility in contrast to family or clan (or tribal) loyalty.

This is reprinted from the Libertarian Alliance.

Libertarian Sociology: Family Structures

by Keir Martland

Curt Doolittle has spent a lot of time writing about family structures and their significance to politics, but, and I take full responsibility for this, I never could grasp his meaning. Perhaps part of the blame lies with him for not writing up enough of his thoughts in the form of articles or essays; Curt usually posts his ideas in summary form on Facebook, which is useful for those who already ‘get it’, but not for ‘outsiders’. Yet, he never fails to present all those who don’t understand him with a comprehensive reading list of articles and books. And it is a very intriguing list of titles.

But, just this morning I was thinking – God forbid! – for myself on this matter and I seem to have come to similar conclusions to Curt, but in my own time and in my own way. Curt’s methodology, I often hear, is different from many of his fellow PFS attendees and so I expect it will be different from mine too. Thus, while Curt may applaud me for having come to some of these conclusions, he may criticise my reasoning. But, here goes.

The Nuclear family, we are often told, is unique to Anglo-Saxon life. Indeed, David Willetts, Universities Minister and the brain of the Conservative Party, seems to think so too. In his book ‘The Pinch’, he writes:

think of England as being like this for at least 750 years. We live in small families. We buy and sell houses. … Our parents expect us to leave home for paid work …You try to save up some money from your wages so that you can afford to get married. … You can choose your spouse … It takes a long time to build up some savings from your work and find the right person with whom to settle down, so marriage comes quite lately, possibly in your late twenties.“

(Quoted from a blog post by Steve Sailer)

Only parents and children live in one house. There is no pressure for the children, or, more often, singular child, to enter into the same line of work as their parents. In fact, many children of Nuclear families are told to pursue their dreams; they remain in education for a while or they get an apprenticeship with someone to whom they are probably not related and they get a job which they enjoy. They then build up some capital and find a wife or husband and together they get a mortgage and move away from their parents. This new couple have a child and raise the child in exactly the same way: they feed and clothe them; they love them; they teach them right from wrong; they prepare them for adulthood; and then enjoy their mid-life and their retirement while their children make their own way in life. Ad infinitum. That is the story of the typical old fashioned English ‘family’.

Now, there are exceptions; not all England is like this. I am from Lancashire, for example, which is an area neither Norman nor Anglo-Saxon, but predominantly Celtic. The family structure where I am from is more close to the Authoritarian family model. For instance, some of my friends’ grandparents live with them, or they with their grandparents. On my mother’s side, multiple generations have lived on the same farm at a time and that seems to be the way it will remain for the foreseeable future. Even those families which are ‘Nuclear’ families are firmly within the shadow of an over-arching Authoritarian family; there may be smaller Nuclear units, but each of these are awfully close to the previous generation. Grandparents in Lancashire, as an authoritarian family county, seem to have much more influence than they do in southern and eastern counties of England. Indeed, in these Authoritarian families, it is rare for there to be very much deviation from a narrow list of occupations among the male members of the family; there are bricklaying and joinery families; there are farming families; there are grocery and butcher’s families.

There is one last kind of family worth discussing, which is that of the Communitarian family. In this model, even larger numbers of people live in the same house than in the Authoritarian structure. While it is a fact that the English live in among the smallest houses in Europe, it must be remembered that usually only three or four live under the same roof in this country. In Spain, Italy, perhaps even Scotland or Ireland, this is not the case. The Communitarian family is, I believe, most common in Italy, Spain, and Greece. Less productive countries? Arguably so. Perhaps because of the intense heat in southern Europe and the corresponding lower levels of production, families have to stick together to remain comfortable financially. In a Communitarian family, everyone probably works in the same business. All the money goes into and comes out of the same communal “pot”. All marriages are arranged to keep the money “in the family” or at least in the neighbourhood. This is the family type about which I know the least and so I cannot say very much more with any degree of sincerity or confidence.

Now, then, I shall turn to the incentive structures resulting from the three family structures outlined above: the Nuclear family; the Authoritarian family; and the Communitarian family. However, the order in which I come to them will be different.

In an Authoritarian family, the children are in the care of the parent for much longer. The authority of the parent remains throughout most of the child’s adult life, for, indeed, the eldest of the children will never leave home. At one point, there may be three generations living under the same roof. What, then, are the incentives of the parent? In this system, the parent has invested in a very practical retirement plan: he will raise his children to the best of his ability and in return, once he is retired and his eldest child is working, he will have a comfortable retirement at the expense of his children. How, then, is he to best achieve this? In the Authoritarian family, the parents dictate to the child what he will do for a living – for, leaving the choice to him risks him making the wrong decision – and to whom he will get married – for, the parent will one day have to share the house with her.

Authoritarian families are not only characterised – to my knowledge – by this sharing of the house with the eldest child and the passing on of the estate to him. It is also the case that the other children, and there almost always are other children, will be assisted by the eldest child and the parents to the best of their ability. Nepotism and house sharing are the two main characteristics of the Authoritarian family.

What, then, will be the political implications of the Authoritarian family structure? This family structure, as Steve Sailer says, serves as a “miniature welfare state” and thus the most obvious political implication will be the redundancy of State Socialism and the Welfare State. This system stamps out individuality among its members and it never truly allows the children “freedom” even when they become adults, but it serves as a safety net for those who might need it without actually expropriating or conscripting or enslaving a single soul. It is a powerful intermediary institution, like the Church, and the community, against the central State. For, what can a state do for you, or what do you need the state for, if you have a house, a trade, a priest, and a good circle of friends?

The Communitarian family, next, then. In many ways, this family structure is an exaggerated version of the Authoritarian family; every family member in the same house; eating the same food; doing the same work; working towards the same common goal. In this system, to paraphrase Sailer again, there’s: “tribalism, ethnic loyalty, nepotism, extended clans, privilege, mafias of relatives, arranged marriages.” The precise reverse of the Nuclear family. In this system, nobody needs to think for themselves. In this system, nobody needs to get on with strangers. There is no need for civil society. To quote Willetts again, via Sailer, “It means that voting is by clans: it is hard to have neutral contracts enforced by an independent judiciary when family obligations are so wide-ranging and so strong…Big clan-style families are better than nuclear ones at spreading advantage and pooling risk …”

So, yes, this Communitarian family, I think, can be considered as an Authoritarian family, but extended and amplified, taken to dangerous extremes. And just what might be the political consequences of such an ethnocentric and communistic family structure being prevalent among a people? My first assumption is that where co-operation with outsiders isn’t strictly necessary, it will not happen, or will only happen in rather nasty ways such as blackmail and bribes. Comparatively little innovation will take place in a society where the unproductive are living in the same house as the productive and where the volume of people under one roof is so great that nobody will ever be counted as an individual. And the capital value of the communal house is unlikely to be greatly improved due to the inevitable ambiguity over just who is the real owner of it. If I don’t own it, but if I will always live in it – for who will even dare to kick me out when I am trying to support my wife and children in it?! – then I am unlikely to spend any time or effort repairing the kitchen door, for instance. Me? Why me? Someone else can do it. And since the money all goes into some metaphorical ‘pot’, there will be a tendency, a la democratic socialism, for each member to progressively less inclined to work and more inclined to spend.

So, yes, the political implications of the Communitarian family are unlikely to be very good from a libertarian point of view. There will be uncommonly high levels of corruption among political officials. And certain families will always vote for one particular political party while other, rival tribes will drift towards other factions. Unlike under the Authoritarian family, where the mini-Welfare state rests upon the passing down of an estate to the eldest child, and the assistance of the others through occasional acts of nepotism by employers-parents, in the Communitarian model, there is less of a reciprocal “I’ll scratch your back for ten years so you can do the same to mine in twenty or thirty years’ time” nature and more of a “You’re family – here’s lots of free goods!” nature to the model. And so, under the Authoritarian model there will be a natural inclination of the patriarchs of the country against high property and income taxes whereas to each individual member of a Communitarian family how high taxes are makes very little difference.

What, then, of the Nuclear family? This is the most individualistic of all of the family structures. It lets the child make his own way in life, with no obligations to the parents, and no assistance from the parents in adult life except for the lump sum given to the child in the Will upon the death of the parents. The incentive structure of a parent in a Nuclear family is this: I must spend my entire life saving and investing so that my child can have a comfortable life, but I must not interfere with his life and career choices.

Thus, when in adulthood, the child will not have a large and generous extended Authoritarian or Communitarian family to fall back on if he gets into arrears. What, then, is he to do? Smaller families, as Willetts reminds us, must buy services such as insurance schemes. In this way, the Nuclear family was the spark which ignited the engine of capitalism. Whether or not Protestantism eased this along is another matter. Thus, the Nuclear family not only had no mini-Welfare State, but also gave rise to capital accumulation, to the preservation and increase in property values, and to the co-operation of different families in a way not heretofore seen. The incentive, therefore, of the child is this: I must become independent of my parents to the very best of my ability and must always be able to support myself. A corollary of this must be increased productivity.

What, then, are the political implications of this? Well, I am going to venture to say that the Nuclear family is not the best option at present from a libertarian perspective. That it is the most individualistic family structure is not up for debate. That it is arguably the most economically sound family structure is not up for debate either. But, what I am going to say is that in the present political and economic climate, the Nuclear family only further strengthens the State and that this has been the case for a long time.

Firstly, while the Nuclear family reduces the frequency of incidences of corruption and nepotism, it also means that families are now to be ruled by impersonal rulers. And the consequences of this can only be bad politically. If I am ruled by my second cousin, if he is the Mayor, or the local feudal lord, then I’m going to be alright. Even if this ruler to whom I am related would like to tax the town much higher, he will encounter resistance which he will not be able to counter. Better the enemy you know. This is probably why tax in Liechtenstein is virtually non-existent; if Hans-Adam or Alois levy a 30% tax on income, everyone in the country will refuse to pay it. And, what is more, they will probably know something personal about Hans-Adam which he may not want to be common knowledge, or they may be able to rob him or punish him in some other way. With an impersonal and distant ruler you do not have this option. The Nuclear family consists of four people on average – how likely is it that one of these four will be the local Councillor or Mayor? And so this is one serious political flaw with the Nuclear family: that while it allows for intra-family freedom, it doesn’t protect the family unit itself from political power as exercised by increasingly distant folk.

Not only this, but in addition to the increasingly impersonal nature of political power and thus the removal of certain barriers against its misuse, the Nuclear family creates more wealth than both the Authoritarian and the Communitarian family. Is this bad? In terms of the family itself and in terms of material comfort, no. But, the wealthier a society becomes the wealthier the State becomes also which means that the State can now afford to supply the one thing the Nuclear family can’t: a Welfare State. And the State provides a more generous one than ever, funded by years of capital accumulation; funded by small expropriations from all families and handed out to those below a certain income: concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. This Welfare State will last for quite a while and it will take a generation for the economic, moral, and cultural rot to set in. Only the generations which grow up on the idea that the State will provide for them will become comparatively short-sighted and lazy. But mine is not the first of those generations. With a Welfare State provided for them, the populace, the network of small families ruled by impersonal demagogues, will be fooled into thinking that the State is their new family. Accordingly, ever higher levels of statism are tolerated.

The disadvantages of the Nuclear family are recognised by Sailer: “This relative lack of nepotism and ethnocentrism makes Anglos simultaneously both successful and at risk of being out-maneuvered by less idealistic groups…. One increasing problem with civil Anglo personalities is that they tend to value fair play and neutrality so much that they can blind themselves to the interests of their own descendants.” The English have a more short-term outlook than we would like to think.

Indeed, I might add that the Nuclear family is a great structure under the right circumstances. Those circumstances are a free market and an hereditary monarchy (preferably a just system of neo-feudalism, where the monarch is simply the landlord of the nation). For in a free market, there is no Welfare State, and under a feudal system with a monarch at the head, the rulers are intimately known and are accessible by the ruled – much more so than elected and temporary rulers.

But, we have neither a free market nor is justice administered by a natural aristocracy. What, then, can we as a people do to restore our freedom? I suggest that we do away with the absolute Nuclear family and recognise the need for patriarchal authority right the way through our lives by, as far as is possible, remaining close to our parents. The poor would have a safety-net and the rich would this way create even more wealth together as a dynasty, perhaps, than as a number of smaller units. I suggest that we adopt a compromise family structure, somewhere between the Authoritarian and the Nuclear family. Those parts of the Nuclear family which foster individual freedom and prosperity without the drawbacks of creating instability and short-sightedness ought to be kept. Those parts of the Authoritarian family which foster stability and far-sightedness without hindering individual freedom ought to be adopted. Beyond this, I can say very little, except that the modal English family structure as it stands must be adapted so that the Welfare State and democracy can be made obsolete once and for all. And I think that this can be done.
Quibcag: The drug-offering girl is Mint Blancmange of Galaxy Angel (ギャラクシーエンジェルGyarakushī Enjeru). And the Chesterton quote is illustrated by the adorable Hinagiku of Hayate the Combat Butler (ハヤテのごとく! Hayate no Gotoku!).
P. S. Since I put this up, there have been a lot of comments on it at its original site, with replies by the author. If you enjoyed the post, you'll benefit from reading them HERE. Scroll down, of course.

1 comment:

  1. The problem facing America is the eagerness of the government to take the father's traditional place as breadwinner. This model gas been tested and used to degrade one race and is being applied to the others. Soon select males will be the "studs" who are bred to the female population to create warriors, workers, and thinkers. Some ruling families will be spared to ranch the rest of us.